Is Voting For Obama Worth Losing Your Job?
If your boss threatened to fire you, would you vote differently?
During election years, political opponents and their supporters use all types of scare tactics to try and shift voters' opinions.
In 1964, President Lyndon B. Johnson's "Daisy" commercial, in which a little girl picking flowers appeared to get hit with a nuclear bomb, was thought to be a deciding factor in his landslide victory over Barry Goldwater, who was in support of using nuclear weapons.
In 1988, George H. W. Bush used the weekend furlough of convict Willie Horton against his opponent Michael Dukakis, scaring voters into thinking that if Dukakis won the White House, prisoners would be let out on weekends to wreak more havoc on their lives.
Threats have always been a part of politics, but usually it is the candidates who are making them. Increasingly, however, there are more instances of some of the candidates' supporters actively engaging in the action.
On Sunday, NBC News reported that ASG Software Solutions CEO Arthur Allen sent an email to his roughly 1,000 employees pretty much telling them to vote for Mitt Romney -- or else.
[ALSO READ: Romney Urged Bosses to Threaten Jobs]
The email read:
We have been able to keep ASG an independent company while still growing our revenues and customers. But I can tell you, if the U.S. re-elects President Obama, our chances of staying independent are slim to none. If we fail as a nation to make the right choice on November 6th, and we lose our independence as a company, I don't want to hear any complaints regarding the fallout that will most likely come. [...] I believe that a new President and administration would give U.S. citizens and the world the renewed confidence and optimism we all need to get the global economies started again, and give ASG a chance to stay independent.
I am asking you to give us one more chance to stay independent by voting in a new President and administration on November 6th. Even then, we still might not be able to remain independent, but it will at least give us a chance. If we don't, that chance goes away. [...]
I apologize for writing such a blunt email, but for those of you who have known me for years and years, you know that this must be serious, and it is.
Just days prior, David Siegel, CEO of Westgate Resorts, sent a similar email to people working for his company.
Parts of his email read:
The economy doesn’t currently pose a threat to your job. What does threaten your job however, is another 4 years of the same Presidential administration. Of course, as your employer, I can’t tell you whom to vote for, and I certainly wouldn’t interfere with your right to vote for whomever you choose. In fact, I encourage you to vote for whomever you think will serve your interests the best.[...]
If any new taxes are levied on me, or my company, as our current President plans, I will have no choice but to reduce the size of this company. Rather than grow this company I will be forced to cut back. This means fewer jobs, less benefits and certainly less opportunity for everyone.[...]
So, when you make your decision to vote, ask yourself, which candidate understands the economics of business ownership and who doesn’t? Whose policies will endanger your job? Answer those questions and you should know who might be the one capable of protecting and saving your job. While the media wants to tell you to believe the “1 percenters” are bad, I’m telling you they are not. They create most of the jobs. If you lose your job, it won’t be at the hands of the “1%”; it will be at the hands of a political hurricane that swept through this country.
They aren't the only ones.
Earlier this month, the always influential Koch Brothers sent out a packet to employees who work for their Georgia-Pacific branch. The packet featured a letter from Koch Enterprises president Dave Robertson warning employees of the "many of our more than 50,000 U.S. employees and contractors [who] may suffer the consequences" if Obama is re-elected. The packet also featured letters from the Kochs themselves. David's letter supported Romney, Charles's letter condemned Obama.
Obviously members of the real powers that be don't want the current leader of the free world in the White House anymore, and would like for their employees to feel the same.
But the question must be asked: Can you get fired for voting against your bosses' wishes?
The answer, apparently, is yes.
Michael Verzillo, of New York's Long Island, charges he was fired from his job as a manager at a T.G.I. Friday's after he told his boss he was voting for Obama in the 2008 presidential election.
"She actually called me up on Election Day and said, ‘Are you going to vote?’ I said yes and she asked who I was voting for,’’ Verzillo told the New York Post last year. “Reluctantly, I told her Obama, and again she told me that I was making a big mistake."
After that he alleges that his boss started a smear campaign against him, accusing him of violating a number of company rules and procedures and that she ultimately had him fired.
Also as a result of the 2008 election, Elliot Snell of Kansas alleges that he was fired from his job at KK Office Solutions after he ignored his boss' advice and voted for Obama anyway. Snell says his boss sent a letter to employees urging them to "rethink" voting for Obama. Snell said he was the highest-selling performer at the company, but that he lost his job because of his vote.
Both Verzillo and Snell have filed lawsuits against their former employers citing discrimination and seeking damages for lost pay. While the cases are still open, the fact remains that both of them claim they lost their jobs because of their vote.
And whether KK Office Solutions and T.G.I. Friday's is found to have made a decision to fire based on an employee's vote, companies may not be in the wrong if they do engage in such behavior.
Loop 21 reached out to the Georgia office of the U.S. Department of Justice, which told us that it is actually a gray area when it comes to laws surrounding the matter. A boss telling you he or she will fire you for voting for a particular candidate doesn't quite qualify as voter intimidation (which is very illegal) because there is no threat of bodily harm or destruction of property. The boss isn't physically keeping you from walking into a voting booth either. In addition, it is not illegal for a company to encourage you to vote for a particular candidate, because doing so is an exercise of its First Amendment right to free speech.
Title 18, U.S.C., Section 245 of the Federally Protected Activities list of Civil Rights statutes prohibits "willful injury, intimidation, or interference, or attempt to do so, by force or threat of force of any person or class of persons because of their activity as a voter, or person qualifying to vote."
So while it may sound like it would be illegal, nothing in the statute actually says that a boss can't fire an employee for voting against his or her wishes. Even if such a firing took place, an worker would have to provide explicit proof that his or her vote was the actual reason for the firing. Such cases can be difficult to prosecute.
The DOJ's official verbiage on Federal Prosecution of Election Offenses [PDF] reads:
The goal of voter intimidation, on the other hand, is to deter or influence voting activity through threats to deprive voters of something they already have, such as jobs, government benefits, or, in extreme cases, their personal safety.[...]
Yet a number of factors make it difficult to prosecute.[...]
The intimidation is likely to be both subtle and without witnesses. Furthermore, voters who have been intimidated are not merely victims; it is their testimony that proves the crime. These voters must testify, publicly and in an adversarial proceeding, against the very person who intimidated them. Obtaining this crucial testimony must be done carefully and respectfully. Because such offenses often occur in remote and insular communities.
Jobs have been the hot topic in the last four years Obama has held office. Though the unemployment rate has gone down every year since late 2009, it still sits at 7.8 percent, meaning people are trying to hold on to what they have and don't want to risk losing it.
Obviously that's the reason why CEOs feel they can dangle jobs in front of their employees like carrots, with the voting booth being a trap door that will open if they make the wrong move. From looking at the way they've worded their letters, it would indeed be hard to prove that they fired anyone for voting for Obama because no actual threats were made.
Our elders look down on people who choose not to vote because of the generations of people who fought and lost their lives for the right.
Are we approaching a time where we may have to look at people who lost their jobs in the same regard?
Granted, who you vote for is your own business. So perhaps you'd be better off taking Dave Chappelle's friend Bob's advice the next time someone asks who you voted for:
But, we still have to ask, if it came down to a paycheck or a ballot, would risk losing your job because of your vote?